The original, independent guide to Lisbon
Principal Real is one of Lisbon’s most exclusive and prosperous districts, which is leading the artisan-chic transformation of historic Lisbon. The once traditional town-houses are being converted into million-dollar apartments, while new boutique shops and fine dining restaurants are opening along the affluent streets. This subtle rejuvenation of Principal Real is creating one of the most desirable districts of Lisbon.
For tourists, Principal Real is a breath of tranquillity from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding tourist districts. It is a district to slowly meander through, unhurriedly visiting the independent shops, admiring the characterful buildings and having a coffee with locals.
This article will provide an overview of the district by highlighting the main attractions, proving a walking tour and interjecting our tourist advice.
Our brief opinion: Principal Real may be without the famed tourist attractions as with other districts, but it is just a likeable place to wander and immerse in typical Portuguese daily life.
The heart of Principal Real is the Jardim do Príncipe Real, a formal garden and popular meeting point for Portuguese. All of the major tourist attractions of the district are located along the main road; the Rua Dom Pedro V (to the east of the Jardim do Príncipe Real) and the Rua da Escola Politecnica (to the west). Running along this street is the 24E tram route, which connects Praça Luís de Camões in Chiado with Campolide to the north.
Insider tip: The traditional yellow trams operate along the 24 route, and this service makes for an enjoyable alternative to the overly popular 28 tram.
Jardim do Príncipe Real
The Jardim do Príncipe Real is the focal point of the district and a pleasant detour for tourists.
The city garden is a favourite with the older residents of the Principe Real who come to drink coffee in one of the kiosks, or gossip under the shade of the trees. The most notable tree is the Cedro-do-Buçaco, a hundred-year-old cypress tree, which cooling foliage spans a radius of over 20m.
Random fact: In the 1740s before Principal Real fashionable status, the Jardim do Príncipe Real was used as the rubbish tip for Bairro Alto.
The Reservatório da Patriarcal
The Reservatório da Patriarcal is an engineering marvel, hidden below the ornamental lake and fountains of the Jardim do Príncipe Real. This octagonal shaped reservoir closely resembles any grand gothic structure, with high vaulted ceilings and 31 stone supports. The reservoir was constructed in 1864 to feed all of central Lisbon and was supplied by the water flowing over the Aqueduto das Águas Livres. It is open public on Saturday and Sundays and is free to visit.
The Patriarcal Reservoir
Nowhere more exemplifies the artisan transformation of Lisbon more than the Embaixada shopping centre. This high-end retail centre which sells its sell more as an experience than shopping, gathers some of Portuguese designers and artists to sell their finest products.
Expect to find inspirational pieces and chic fashion, but at prices which would deter most tourists. For more information on the exact shops please see the Embaixada websites: https://www.embaixadalx.pt/
The following is a suggested walking tour of the Príncipe Real district. The entire route takes around three hours, or 1.5 if the Jardim Botânico and natural history museum are excluded.
• Enter Principal Real from the south-eastern side either from the Bairo Alto district or via the Ascensor da Glória funicular
• Admire the view from the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (GPS: 38.71517, -9.14435), one of the best viewpoints of Lisbon.
• Visit the Convento de São Pedro de Alcântara convent, behind the Miradouro de São Pedro, with its extensive azulejo tile paintings (GPS: 38.71537, -9.14532)
• Head down a little alley to the funky “Lost In” bar (38.71610, -9.14585) and the views over northern Lisbon
• See the Rua da Rosa, the centre of Lisbon’s LGBT community with numerous bars and clubs.
• Stop for a drink in the Pavilhão Chinês (GPS: 38.71578, -9.14671), a restaurant concealing a larger collection of historic artefacts than some museums
• Stroll around the Jardim do Príncipe Real and cool down under the shade of the Cedro-do-Buçaco tree (GPS: 38.71622, -9.14808
• Descend to the depths of the Jardim do Príncipe Real and visit the Patriarcal reservoir (Saturday/Sunday)
• Wander the stalls of the small organic farmers market, where independent farmers are leading the drive to organic and sustainable farming (Saturday)
• Browse the high-end boutique stalls of the Embaixada Concept Store (GPS: 38.71683, -9.14840), which has restored a magnificent neo-Arabian palace
• Cross the Jardim do Príncipe Real and wander the cobbled streets on the southwestern side of the district, which lead to the Convento Dos Cardaes convent (GPS: 38.71471, -9.147725). (optional)
• Head back to the Jardim do Príncipe Real and continue down the Rua da Escola Politecnica
• Explore the gardens of the Jardim Botânico
• Visit the sprawling natural history museum (Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência)
• Continue down the street past the Procuradoria Geral da República government offices
• Enter the Largo do Rato and see the Chafariz do Largo do Rato
• Catch the 24E tram back, or head east to the Avenida da Liberdade